Manchester United snapped a run of three straight draws by winning 2-0 at Everton on Monday with sweetly struck second-half goals by Anthony Martial and Jesse Lingard which saw them climb to second in the Premier League.
Martial curled the ball into the top corner from the edge of the area in the 57th minute after impressive play from Paul Pogba as Jose Mourinho’s stuttering side finally came alive after the break following an uninspiring first-half display.
Lingard sealed the win in the 81st, cutting in from the left wing and sending the ball fizzing over goalkeeper Jordan Pickford to score his seventh league goal of the season, making him United’s second top scorer behind Romelu Lukaku.
Both sides struggled to create first-half chances in the wet and windy conditions although United finished the opening period stronger and seized the momentum after the break, with Juan Mata hitting the post before Martial set them on the way to victory.
United were missing injured strikers Romelu Lukaku and Zlatan Ibrahimovic after a limp finish to 2017 with successive draws against Leicester City, Burnley and Southampton, meaning it was up to France winger Martial to lead their attack.
Everton manager Sam Allardyce made seven changes to the team that suffered a first defeat in eight games in a 2-1 reverse at Bournemouth on Saturday although his side did not once manage to test David de Gea in the United goal.
The home side briefly snapped out of their slumber after conceding the opening goal and Senegal striker Oumar Niasse had their best chance of equalising when he met a cross in the area but headed just wide of the near post.
United kept threatening down the other end and deservedly added a second through Lingard.
“I think we played very well. We had the ball, moved the ball, felt very confident with the ball and the goals were phenomenal,” United manager Jose Mourinho told a news conference.
“Our performance was really good so maybe I’m lucky this time and the kings of rock and roll that said I wasn’t performing last month will say I’m performing now,” he added referring to criticism from former United players.
Allardyce, meanwhile, criticised his players for the manner in which they conceded each goal.
“I don’t dispute the result but what I do dispute is that Manchester United’s goals were that great, because of our deficiencies,” Allardyce said.
“The second goal is a lot worse than anything we’ve done for a long time because they scored off our throw-in. That’s something at this level that I can’t accept. That’s gifting Man United two opportunities to score today and you can’t do that…”